Author Archive

May 22

Beating 1,000-to-1 Odds

Friday, May 22, 2020 12:25 PM

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“Fantastic Feat of Suicide Plane Sank USS Drexler” was the headline of the press release the U.S. Navy sent out on 12 August 1945, three days after the second atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan and two days before that country surrendered. The USS Drexler (DD-741) had gone down more than two months earlier, on 28 May, but because of the grievous losses—158 dead and 52 wounded out of a 350-man crew—notifying the next of kin doubtlessly had taken much time. Commissioned on 14 November 1944, the Drexler had sailed from Norfolk to Trinidad and then on to the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 21

A Destroyer Escort, a U-boat, and the ‘Argentia Eight’

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 12:26 PM

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In April 1945, Nazi Germany was in its death throes, with Soviet troops battling for Berlin and U.S. and British forces driving deep into the country’s heartland. The Battle of the Atlantic was virtually over; the Kriegmarine’s bases on the French coast either had been captured or were besieged, their surviving U-boats long gone to bases farther north. Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy was concerned that U-boats posed a serious new threat—to New York City and other major East Coast cities. Allied intelligence had revealed sketchy information about a German plan to dispatch U-boats armed with V-1 flying bombs to waters… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 11

The Antiaircraft Fire Control 'Shoebox'

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 12:01 AM

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In the spring of 1941, the staff of the fire-control section in the newly reorganized Bureau of Ordnance’s Research and Development Division was struggling with the problem of how to provide fire control for the heavier antiaircraft machine guns that were just entering production, such as the 40-mm Bofors and the 1.1-in machine cannon. Although a series of development contracts had been awarded to the traditional suppliers of fire-control directors, none of the devices submitted to date lent themselves to quantity production, none had proven to work, and all were deemed too difficult to maintain afloat. Unbeknown to anyone in… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 14

Flying Beer Trucks

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 10:04 AM

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In October 1944, I was with Marine Scout Bomber Squadron (VMSB) 142 stationed on Emirau Island, 1 degree south of the equator, in the northern Solomons. We were part of the force keeping the Japanese bases of Kavieng and Rabaul isolated. Training flights in our Douglas SBD Dauntlesses plus an occasional strike was the order of the day, as we waited for the Philippine liberation campaign to begin. I had noticed a small growth on the sole of my left foot that made it painful to walk on, and also painful to put pressure on the rudder pedal of the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jan 7

Dispelling a USS Liberty Theory

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 12:01 AM

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The role of the diesel electric submarine USS Amberjack (SS-522) during the June 1967 Six-Day War–and specifically at the time of the Israeli attack on the spy ship USS Liberty (AGTR-5) on 8 June–has elicited considerable interest from many quarters. There have been controversial interpretations of events associated with the Amberjack’s movements, but what actually happened is significant because, in some cases, theoretical misrepresentations of events have stained the honor of a U.S. submarine. In 1967, U.S. national strategic interests drove the approach by President Lyndon B. Johnson and his key cabinet members and national security advisers to the growing… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 10

The U.S. Navy's 'Smashers'

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 12:01 AM

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Introduced in the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the 19th century, the carronade saw extensive service in American warships during the War of 1812. The Carron Company in Scotland had produced a prototype of the weapon, designed for the protection of merchantmen, in 1776. The success of early carronades resulted in the Royal Navy placing large orders for the guns, and other naval powers soon copied the basic design. Henry Foxall, superintendent of the Eagle Foundry on the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia, cast the first American versions, but probably not until 1799. Certainly he cast the majority of the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 17

Theodore Roosevelt, Naval Expansion, and Guaranteeing Peace

Thursday, October 17, 2019 3:32 PM

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In 1897, William McKinley was inaugurated as 25th President of the United States. As an advocate of tariffs and protectionist policies, McKinley believed in supporting U.S. interests in Cuba and around the globe through diplomacy and tough negotiations. And yet, just over 12 months after his inauguration, McKinley would find himself leading the United States into war against a European power. Although America would enjoy total victory in 1898, this was despite the lack of naval preparation throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The near-immediate naval build-up in 1897 and early 1898 was due in large part to the bold actions… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 8

The 1st Marines on Bloody Nose Ridge

Thursday, August 8, 2019 12:01 AM

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On 15 September 1944, the 1st Marine Division landed on Peleliu with its commander, Major General William H. Rupertus, confidently predicting the Japanese-held island would be in U.S. hands within four days. But the grueling Battle of Peleliu would last 73 days, with the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division eventually taking over operations. Two key factors contributed to the battle stretching so long: The Japanese abandoned large-scale assaults in favor of attritional, defensive warfare, and they had ideal terrain in which to implement their new tactics—the rugged coral and limestone Umurbrogol Mountain, which Marines nicknamed “Bloody Nose Ridge.”

 
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